Bill Gates Foundation moves to boost rice, yam production in Nigeria

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it is funding six agricultural commodities value chains with emphasis on rice and yam production to ensure food sufficient in Nigeria.

Dr Audu Grema, the Senior Programme Officer, Agriculture in the West African Office of the Foundation, disclosed this in Abuja on Tuesday.

He listed some agricultural projects of the foundation to include CARI-Project (rice) which is aimed at improving rice production productivity, pest control, and variety enhancement.

Grema expressed optimism that Nigeria would soon be self-sufficient in rice production. He said the rice project by the foundation was currently being implemented in Cross River, Niger, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Plateau and Edo, Ebonyi States.

The programme officer, however, said that the Cassava Value Addition Project (CAVA) was based in Abeokuta at the University of Agriculture.

According to him, we also have a big yam project where we are working with private farms around Abuja, Kaduna, Niger, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Akure to enhance yam propagation technology through seeds.

“We have a huge portfolio of agricultural investments in Nigeria. We are working on maize, rice, yam, cassava and crop-livestock interface.

“We have four strategic cassava investments that we think are critical that we are funding across Nigeria.

“In agriculture, we do not approve projects except if it has a small holder connection.  Anything we fund must have a connection with enhancing the status of small scale farmers,’’ Grema said.

He explained that the foundation was also working in public health, integrated vaccine delivery, routine immunisation revival across many states.

On the reports that Gates was a major propagator of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), the programme officer refuted the assertion, saying that the Bill Gates had no connection with GMOs.

According to him, “Bill and Melinda Gates are not farmers; they are not into agricultural services; so, to think they will promote GMOs just to promote their businesses interest is very wrong.

“I will be in complete denial that we have nothing to do with these big commercial agricultural farms that have been cited in some of the articles in Nigeria.”

“The foundation does not have anything to do with GMOs even in Nigeria and abroad.

“No connection with the big industrial agricultural concerns which people are alluding to. “People making such assertions are morally wrong,’’ he said.

Grema commended the `Green Alternative’ recently launched by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

He said the agricultural initiative was a step toward fighting poverty and food security in Nigeria. The programme officer assured that the foundation would align its programmes with that of the Federal Government to enable the country achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The foundation with headquarters based in Seattle, Washington has its primary aim of enhancing healthcare and reduce extreme poverty.